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Friday, July 6, 2012

monsoon ragas ….

What monsoons really mean for India? 

They mean a lot! 

For aeon, particularly with no human intervention, monsoon winds have been romanticizing the lives of Indians. 

For them, it is with the monsoon rains that “impregnation in the entire universe” rests—grass waiting to sprout, greenery to blossom, and for that matter the whole spectrum of nature looks forward to the life-giving monsoons from the oceans. 

Though the arrival of monsoons is a perennial feature in India, it appears anew every year. Dark clouds descend in rows, darkening the sky—making it look like the color of a peacock’s feather. Reverberating thunder announces its arrival. Moist-laden cool winds gush in. Its resplendent tunes make peacocks welcome them with a shrill cry—dancing in gay abandon. Children, seeing the lightning spread fast the darkness, run to their mothers.  Suddenly, the vast sky opens up. A vertical sheet of water descends. It rushes at an incredible speed, as though to meet its mate—the scorched earth. When the much-longed and long-waited-for waters ultimately descend, the mother earth swallows the first ambrosial waters of the season with glee. 

Thus sets in the varsha ritu: suddenly, countryside shines in deep emerald. Birds, being relieved from the scorching summer winds, chirp in raga. Life gets rejuvenated, gets a fresh lease, and the whole universe sways in celestial joy. Monsoon rains simply wash away the old and give life to new creativity. They are muses to poets—Kalidasa’s Meghdoot is one such gift. India has so much to be thankful to monsoon, for in it, all its existence recycles year after year. 

Romantic ragas aside, there is hardcore economics that is intricately entwined with monsoons, for even today, around 66% of the agricultural land in our country is directly dependent on monsoon rains for cultivation of different crops. There is an undeniable link, that too a defining one, between rains and Indian agriculture. The latest Economic Survey categorically states: “The intensity and distribution of rainfall determine the crop prospects in a majority of the areas.” 

Our annual economic-affair with monsoons starts with the announcement of Indian Meteorological Department’s predictions about the monsoon rains. Of course, our IMD has been forecasting about monsoon rainfall for over a hundred years, yet they remain a mere approximation of the real world, but not reality; for, after all, atmosphere is, as Lorenz’s studies reveal, a ‘chaotic system’. 

Yet, no sooner does the IMD announce its forecast than Sensex—the country’s barometer of economic health—shoots up by a couple of hundreds of points if the prediction is for normal monsoons. Financial analysts rush their advice to the gullible stock market investors to buy stocks if the forecast is for normal monsoon, or to sell if it is otherwise. Traders would welcome if the prediction points to below normal rains, for they can make a killing while the prices of commodities skyrocket. Even the governments of the day will not be left far behind: they merrily forecast increased employment and a healthy economy under the prospects of buoyant tax-collections.

Of course, there is a reason behind this madness: even today, critical facets of our economy are highly impacted by the vagaries of monsoon. A recent study indicates that the impact of severe droughts on GDP ranges between 2 to 5% of GDP, for drought has an indirect impact on the purchasing power of the large fraction of the population that is dependent on agriculture. And also, monsoon accounts for 80% of country’s rainfall, and even today agriculture that accounts for 25% of GDP, affording employment to 70% of country’s population, is just dependent on rains.

Forecast or no forecast, good or no good forecast; the only man who goes on with his life as usual is the farmer: he tills his land and waits for the monsoons to water his crops. If they are timely, evenly distributed and sufficient to get a good crop home, he smiles. With him the nation too smiles. If it is excess, inundating his crops, or less, withering them away, there is nothing for him to look forward to, for there is no insurance for his crops, except to endure it under the hope of a brighter tomorrow. It is, however, pretty encouraging watching him defy the limits set by the monsoons and march on defiantly. 

Of course, his urban counterparts are no different: they too silently suffer the deluge, year after year, as the crippled infrastructure—transport systems, telecommunications, drainage systems—stares at them helplessly. Wasted days of no production, spread of diseases, loss of lives, etc., are all meekly accepted as fait accompli. Governments of the day ritually make a hue and cry about the failure of the forecast system, followed by vain promises for bettering the infrastructure for arresting such recurrences, and also to put in place a better crisis management system by the next season. Thus, it goes on year after year. And as monsoons this rigmarole too repeats anew every year. 

To sum up, Indian economy is draped in monsoons. Just as the beauty of a woman is enhanced or diminished by the splendor  of the sari she is draped in, the life of Indians is defined by the nature of monsoons—their timeliness, evenness, and sufficiency. Maharajas or no Maharajas, Badshahs or no Badshahs, Viceroys or no Viceroys, governments or no governments, Indians carry on their ‘immortal’ duel with monsoons with determination and, of course, with a silent hope for a better tomorrow!

Images - courtesy:;;; 

Keywords:  monsoon rains, drought, floods, Indian monsoon rains


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